What is right with our country? What is wrong with our country? What is your American Dream? How do we take our freedom back?
These are very American questions. Each is also on a huge poster on a wall at the site of the Occupy Boston protest near South Station and anyone can step up and write their answers to these questions.
In these tough times of extended unemployment, pension savings declining in value, local/state/federal budget cuts, and insecurity about the jobs we still hold, aren’t these the questions we are thinking about?
The Occupy Wall Street gathering and daily demonstrations started on Sept. 17 sparked by an appeal over the Internet. Occupy Boston began on Sept. 30.
I walked through the Occupy Boston site last Friday and saw 100 small tents pitched close together. Although more of the participants in these protests are aged 18-30, people of all ages are involved. To be effective, a movement like this needs to have people of different ages and economic groups involved, but leadership can come from just one group; 20 year olds were key leaders in the Civil Rights movement.
One of the tents had written on it, “Local 7 Iron Workers”, referring to the Iron Workers construction union with its office in South Boston. The union member in that tent is probably unemployed like many of his fellows. If the Republicans in Congress have their way, there will be no infrastructure spending bill this year and construction trades members will continue to be unemployed in large numbers.
This protest movement is organized. There are tents for Logistics, Food, Medical, Media, and even ones for a Library and for “Faith and Spiritual Space.” Each day there’s an open assembly to report, discuss, and plan the day’s public protest. Links are being made between the protesters and community groups and unions who are now taking action together.
There has been much discussion about “what these people want?” I think it’s pretty clear when you call your movement “Occupy Wall Street” and your slogan is “Our country is owned by the top 1%. We are the 99%. Join the conversation!”
Everyone in Dorchester is part of that 99%, right?
The questions now are: How sustained can this protest become; how can it extend into organizing during next year’s election campaigns; and will it stay on issues that will be decided in these next months and years? Our country is stuck between two visions and the Republicans have enough power to prevent a jobs bill from being voted on and to keep tax breaks for wealthy people and powerful corporations in place. If this stalemate continues, so will large scale unemployment and budget cuts to government programs we need. And our business will not be producing goods that we and the world need.
On the large poster at Occupy Boston that asked, “What is wrong with our country?” I wrote, “All taxpayers bailed out the big banks and Wall Street firms, but they’ve kept foreclosing on millions of average people.”
On the large poster that asked, “What is right with our country?” I wrote, “We are a generous and hopeful people.”
Efforts like Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston and the determination that average people everywhere will still have for a good life for themselves and their families, friends, and neighbors mean that we are still a generous and hopeful people.
Lew Finfer is a Dorchester resident.